This was my favourite Tim Winton novel yet. The voice of Jaxie Clackton was raw to the bone. The sort of ‘no holes barred’ writing that grabs you by the goolies and won’t let go. It was compulsive, repulsive, exhilarating, eviscerating reading. I was dragged on a gut-wrenching journey with Jaxie – his pain, his wonder and his fears. His voice is still ringing in my head. Fintan was like a modern-day hermit who has fallen off the righteous path and been left in the arse-end of nowhere to contemplate his sins. His words were jarring, but struck home:
‘–I suspect that God is what you do, not what or who you believe in.’
And then of course, Jaxie’s response, ‘That’s all jumblyfuck to me …’
What profane, profound honesty. No dissimulation. Nowhere to hide. In The Shepherd’s Hut Tim Winton brings his characters to life with incredible, visceral, biting words. It’s like he’s carving the novel out with a knife. I laughed out loud, I was shocked and surprised, I winced and cringed and recoiled as I read.
I appreciated the fact that questions were left unanswered and not all threads were tied up in a neat bow. That’s life, and boy, can Tim Winton write life.
This novel made me think long and hard about my own writing, especially with regards to depicting characters with more clarity, honesty and authenticity. I’m not sure it is something I can do, but I’m going to at least attempt to bring more of that to my writing.
Funnily enough, one of the first things I did after finishing the book was hunt on the internet to see if Tim does any workshops. I couldn’t find any. I looked for podcasts and interviews. Very limited. His writing of course leaves you wanting more. That is his gift. As a writer you want to unpack and understand it. As well as being gifted, I think what makes Tim Winton so extraordinary is the nakedness of his writing. He strips humanity bare. So much truth. Awesome.